Why travelling with little money is the best

Dan Kieran writes in The Idle Traveller:

If you have to rely on other people, you are forced to be open and engage with them, which quickly spreads the notion of friendship and community. One person leads you to another further along your path or pushes you in a slightly different direction from the one you were imagining. It is a loss of control, but an entirely life-affirming and liberating one.

If, on the other hand, you have plenty of money and no need of anyone’s help, you can venture all over the world without meeting a single local person.

And I agree.

If I had enough money to stay in hotels all the time, I would never have tried Couchsurfing, where I met plenty of inspiring and helpful people. They often made my trips much more interesting than they would have been without local contacts. This summer for example, I stayed with a young Couchsurfing host in Abkhazia, who took me to galleries and exhibitions and introduced me to artists, academics and even the former Foreign Minister of the country.

If I had stayed in a hotel, I wouldn’t have experienced any of this. (In my experience, AirBnB hosts don’t have as much time/interest as Couchsurfing hosts, but that may also be due to the travelers’ preferences.)

If I had enough money to rent a car, I would never stand by the side of the road and hope for a stranger to invite me into their car. A particularly nice driver in Montenegro even invited me to his home, prepared a meal and drinks and gave me a bunch of presents before taking me exactly where I needed to go. In Bolivia, I was walking in the mountains when a truck with miners stopped to take me through a breathtakingly beautiful valley. The most hitchhiking-friendly place so far was Easter Island: cars, quads, pick-up trucks sometimes even stopped without me trying to hitchhike. “Jump in,” the drivers said without asking for my destination, because all roads lead to the only town on the island anyway.

In Brazil, I even caught a ride on a helicopter.

If I had enough money for a car, I wouldn’t have spent a freezing night at the train station in Romania that lead to a very memorable encounter.

If I had enough money for restaurants all the time, I would never buy food from the market and eat in the park, where people sit down next to me and chat me up. It is this contact with random locals, not only with members of my own profession or my own social class, that makes traveling most interesting.

If I had enough money for intercontinental planes, I wouldn’t have found myself on a ship crossing the Atlantic.

If I had enough money to fly from one capital city to the next, I would never see the little towns and villages in between, the ones that are forgotten, where the waste dumps and slums are, where development lags 20 years behind. In other words, I wouldn’t have seen reality. I would know and understand less about the world.


(By the way, I don’t want to recommend Dan Kieran’s book. Except for a few interesting thoughts, it’s rather boring and free of substance. You’ll be entertained better by reading this blog. – This story also appeared on Medium. – Hier gibt es diesen Artikel auf Deutsch.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, Economics, Philosophy, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Why travelling with little money is the best

  1. Jackie says:

    So true! Travelling alone also allows a similarly”rich” experience, which generally travelling as a couple/group does not.

    • Absolutely.
      Like most people, I began traveling with friends and never would have thought of traveling alone voluntarily. But sometimes, I just didn’t find anybody to join me.
      Thus, I discovered that I have much more flexibility when I am alone and that I don’t really have to stay alone for that long, because I will meet other people along the way. But they are new and different people, making the journey more adventurous and exciting.
      Now, I wouldn’t even want to travel with someone else for a long trip because I know fewer strangers will talk to a couple, let alone a group.

  2. Miriam says:

    I absolutely love your perspective. It’s all about getting out of our comfort zone isn’t it?

    • Yes, I really have to force myself to do these things. I used to be extremely shy about hitchhiking and rather walked back 15 km instead of trying to stop a car. Oddly, I still don’t try it as often as I should, although I have only had good experiences.

    • Miriam says:

      That’s great. You’re braver than me

    • Well, it comes with desperate situations. For example when I walked too far, it’s getting dark and I know I won’t be able to return to town by walking and I would otherwise die. Or in sudden rain or snow storms.
      But I still don’t have the confidence to use hitchhiking for long trips (I am too much of a planner), although some people travel all around the world like that (example 1, example 2).

    • Miriam says:

      Yes, I can understand that .

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  5. Inspiring, makes me want to pack up and go!!

    • I had the same feeling as I wrote it!
      I am still planning too much, and I’d like to develop the courage to just take a small backpack and leave the house without a fixed route, without any firm plans.

    • We all say if it was that easy, but in reality it it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Hope you find your feet on the right paths!

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  10. Jacqueline Danson says:

    Definitely a “richer” way of travelling.

    However, if you had money you would still have a choice, to travel in this way (or another). You would not be forced to take the more expensive option.

    This way, you are just taking your anyway-preferred option out of necessity. Otherwise you would be likely (most times anyway) be taking the same option, but by choice.

    How then – if you had it – would you spend the money you would have saved in this way?


    • In my experience, neither me nor other people hitch-hike when they own a car or use Couchsurfing when they are millionaires, let alone sleep in a shed.

    • DANSON Jacqueline says:

      I agree!

      But my point is, you COULD chose to do so. And personally I suspect you’d be the one to buck the trend!


    • I still wouldn’t go to the most expensive places because I just find that plain dumb, but I don’t think I would sleep in train stations either. And thus, my life would become less adventurous.

      Also, if I wanted more money, I would – in the absence of inheritance or gifts – need to work, which would mean far less time to travel and to learn. No, work is a really bad bargain, particularly when time is our most limited resource.

    • Anonymous says:


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  12. I need to learn it. After pandemic i am going to my first travel in my life and I fave little money.
    Thanks for share it ❤ i was scared but now i am feel more comfortable

    • I think there are at least two ways to overcome the fear, and I have no idea which way is better:
      (1) Take little steps, start in your own country/region. Try Couchsurfing in your own city, just for one night. Go hitchhiking only to the next town. I did it like that, and I built up confidence and quickly wanted more.
      Or (2) make a huge step and announce it publicly, so you feel bad if you don’t follow through.

      Where are you planning to go?

    • i feel save if i know how to defend myself in important situations ^^

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